Gabrielle Hillman, a 21-year-old Belmar resident and St. Rose High School graduate who was found dead in her Pennsylvania college dorm room Monday, had a bright future ahead of her, according to those who knew her.
Hillman, a small animal science major at Delaware Valley College, was a bright young woman who made weekly trips home to volunteer at an animal shelter in Tinton Falls, St. Rose High School Principal Sr. Kathy Nace said Tuesday.
An employee at the Associated Humane Society in Tinton Falls, where Hillman began volunteering about a year ago, said Hillman was at the shelter on Saturday.
"We were shocked. We don't know what or why it happened," Lindsay Papa said of how the shelter employees received the news. "It's sad and hard to believe. She was a young, bright girl with a long future ahead of her."
Hillman was a four-year soccer player at St. Rose, co-captaining the team her senior year, Nace said.
"She was just a really diligent, faithful and hard-working student," she said.
Both Nace and Papa said Hillman always seemed happy and had a smile on her face.
"Always talkative, really smart," Papa said of Hillman. "She was good with animals, good with people. An all-around good girl, very nice girl."
Authorities have yet to release any details surrounding Hillman's unexpected death, but investigators on Monday seemed to rule out foul play or suicide.
Papa said she could have seen Hillman doing well in her chosen field of study.
"She was real good with the animals," Papa said.
Nace, who said she spoke to Hillman's father Tuesday, said there were no funeral arrangements at this time.
"It's a tremendous loss for the family, as you can imagine," she said. "She was a lovely girl, always a smile on her face. Very enthusiastic. She had a great love of her family."
Hillman's sister graduated from St. Rose in 2011 and attends Philadelphia University, Nace said.
Nace said she broke the news to the school's faculty and students Tuesday morning. The daily morning prayer was dedicated to Hillman, she said.
The school's guidance counselors were made available to any affected students and faculty on Tuesday, Nace said.
Nace also said she reached out to local families that she knows are close with the Hillman's to offer support.
"It's a terribly sad way to start the day," Nace said.